Lured by ‘entrepreneurial itch,’ Fluidware co-founder Aydin Mirzaee departs SurveyMonkey

On Friday, Aydin Mirzaee will punch out for the final time from the company he’s spent some eight years building.

His role as general manager of FluidReview by SurveyMonkey is coming to an end, but Mr. Mirzaee is already focused on his next big venture although he’s not ready to publicly commit to a specific project.

Nevertheless, he says he feels the urge to dive back into Ottawa’s startup scene, this time armed with several lessons learned as an entrepreneur.

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Mr. Mirzaee spent two years at SurveyMonkey as part of the transition period when Fluidware, the company he co-founded in 2008, was acquired by the California-based company in 2014. Fluidware, a provider of survey software targeting enterprise clients, was named a Startup to Watch by Ottawa Business Journal in 2011 and doubled its revenue on-average every year since its inception. Mr. Mirzaee was named a Forty Under 40 recipient in 2015.

Under Mr. Mirzaee’s management, FluidReview by SurveyMonkey grew its Ottawa presence from 75 staff members at the time of the acquisition to approximately 90 employees today. Mr. Mirzaee remains a shareholder in the company and told OBJ in an interview that he’s confident the timing is right for both he and the company to part ways.

“I feel good leaving at this point in time because I feel like everything is in good hands and growing very rapidly and the Ottawa team is prospering. It seems like an opportune time to make the transition,” he says.

Startup environment

While he learned a great deal from his time with SurveyMonkey, Mr. Mirzaee says he feels the “entrepreneurial itch” to get back into a startup. Looking at the advances in the technological environment, he says 2016 could be remembered as one of the best years in recent memory to start a company. Disruptive technologies such as drones, artificial intelligence and virtual reality are full of possibility for Mr. Mirzaee.

“There’s too much opportunity for me not to want to dive in,” he says.

Mr. Mirzaee says now he’s planning to spend the next few months turning over the five or six ideas he has in his head to determine which one has the most potential. On the other hand, he’s also looking at local startups to see if there might be a fit for him in taking a company already with some momentum to the next level.

“If I can save three years of my life, that’s pretty cool too,” he says.

Whichever scenario pans out, Mr. Mirzaee sees himself staying in Ottawa. He believes in the talent and connections he has made in Ottawa, and sees the nation’s capital as an underappreciated site to launch a business.

“I think it’s one of those secrets still, but a secret that’s being discovered more and more by other companies, that Ottawa truly is a great place to start a company.”

Lessons learned

Much of Mr. Mirzaee’s free time will now go towards community-building endeavours in the city, advising and investing in local startups. He has also had a hand in planning the SaaS North conference coming to Ottawa at the end of November.

Mr. Mirzaee sees SaaS as one of the premier industries in the city, crediting L-Spark with putting local SaaS talent on the map. He says that there are no guarantees about whether he will pursue the industry in his next venture, but did say it was his “go-to” field.

The second time he goes through the startup gauntlet, there are a few lessons Mr. Mirzaee plans on taking away. Finding the right path to scalable revenue and identifying the markets to do so, for example, were big in the later years of Fluidware.

The biggest lesson he’ll take to his next startup, though is realizing that in the early days there are going to be a lot more lows than there will be highs, but that the longer you stick with it, the more highs you seem to find.

“The good news is, it does get a lot better in the later days.”

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